POSTED: Sunday, March 8, 2009 - 1:53am
UPDATED: Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 11:57pm
LSU outfielders Leon Landry and Nicholas Pontiff and catcher Micah Gibbs each launched grand slams, and the top-ranked Tigers blasted seven home runs Saturday to overpower Illinois, 22-10, in Alex Box Stadium.
LSU bounced back from Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Illini to improve to 10-1 on the season. The Fighting Illini dropped to 6-2 despite a remarkable debut by freshman right fielder Willie Argo, who connected on three homers in his first collegiate game.
Landry, who hit two dingers on the afternoon, now has seven home runs on the season, and the sophomore has already surpassed his season total of five from a year ago. Gibbs finished 1-for-2 with four RBI and three walks, while Pontiff delivered his second homer in two days with his pinch-hit grand slam in the eighth.
In addition, freshman third baseman Tyler Hanover blasted the first homer of his career and recorded a career-high four RBI.
The Tigers’ three grand slams tied an NCAA single-game record achieved on eight previous occasions, most by recently by Southeast Missouri State versus Freed-Hardeman on March 28, 2007. LSU is the first Southeastern Conference team to hit three grand slams in a single contest.
The Tigers launched seven homers in a game for the first time since June 9, 2008, in Game 3 of the NCAA Super Regional versus UC Irvine.
LSU right-hander Jordan Nicholson (1-0), who relieved starter Daniel Bradshaw after the second inning, earned the first victory of his career. Illinois starter Aaron Martin (1-1) was charged with the loss.
“I was really proud of our kids,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “Last night, I really challenged them after the game because of us not hitting in the clutch and having some base running blunders, but today, I think they came out really determined to make amends for yesterday.
“I thought Tyler Hanover really provided a spark for us. I wanted to give him an opportunity, and I think he rose to the occasion today. I took Leon Landry out of the lead-off spot just to take some of the pressure off of him, and he really responded as well.”
Illinois scored two runs in the top of the first to take a 2-0 lead. Catcher Aaron Johnson drove in both runs with a base hit to left field. The Illini added another in the second with Argo’s solo home run in his first career at-bat.
LSU struck back in the bottom of the second with a big inning as the Tigers scored five runs, all with two outs. After an RBI single by Hanover, the Tigers loaded the bases for Landry, and the sophomore drilled a mammoth home run to the deepest part of the ball park in center field. The Tigers gained a 5-3 advantage.
Following a run by Illinois in the top of the third to cut the lead to 5-4, the Tiger bats came alive once again in the bottom of the frame, plating six more runs to go up, 11-4. After a walk to Gibbs and a double by first baseman Sean Ochinko, right fielder Chad Jones drove in two runs with a two-bagger of his own to right center field.
Hanover followed with a three-run dinger, the first of his career, and Landry connected on his second blast of the game, a solo shot to right field.
After a two-run fourth for Illinois, the Tigers tacked on four more runs in the fifth when Gibbs delivered an opposite-field grand slam, and LSU took a commanding 15-6 advantage.
The Illini added two more runs in the sixth, but LSU freshman Grant Dozar responded in the bottom of the frame with a solo shot to right, his second homer of the season.
Argo deposited his third dinger of the day into the left field bleachers to drive in two runs in the seventh and reduce the lead to 16-10.
Following a scoreless eighth for Illinois, Ochinko launched a solo shot to left center field, his third on the year. Senior Chris McGhee notched an RBI after consecutive base hits by freshman Mikie Mahtook and Hanover. The Tigers then loaded the bases, and Pontiff capped off the offensive fireworks with his pinch-hit grand slam to left.
Senior Paul Bertuccini fanned all three batters he faced in the ninth to finish the game.